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City Scenes

(c) 2010 Jeanne Powell
"City Scenes"
all rights reserved


Saturday evening late, I walked past a well-known tea emporium, and noticed a private party in full swing with live music and guests in costume.  The owner was celebrating his birthday and commanded all guests to dress as their inner selves, or their favorite fantasies.  Two uniformed schoolgirls sucking on candy pacifiers were exiting as I chatted with one of the musicians, who used to live two doors down from me.  He left his former apartment when the owner converted the building to TICs (tenancies in common) and he couldn't afford to purchase his unit; the owner paid each tenant $5,000 to move.  You could have gotten much more, I said.  I know, he responded, but I didn't want the hassle.  Gleefully he added that the units mostly haven't sold, so the miserly owner is none the richer.  Business hasn't been good for the large condominium complex down the hill either, which opened with bright signage and lots of balloons about three months ago.  Real estate agents only show the building by appointment now.  Even  window signs announcing reduced prices have been taken down.  However, the streets are cleaner than they used to be, and the homeless have moved to less ambitious neighborhoods.  Yuppie newcomers from Silicon Valley seem to crowd the sidewalks these days, wearing ear buds and running gear, startling anyone who is out for a quiet stroll.  And on weekend nights the upscale bars along Polk Street attract hundreds of the drunken dears, who stagger from bar to bar to ATM and back to the bars in designer clothes, protected by black-and-whites.  Reminds me of the time when police thought they worked only for the wealthy.  I miss the artists, carpenters and students who used to live around here.  Even with rent control, they can't hang on -- jobs simply disappear or work hours are reduced, or roommates move out and return to family homes in the east or midwest.  Frequent sidewalk sales in several neighborhoods, where you can pick up a Le Creuset skillet or silver ice bucket for a song.  And so it goes...

Last week my Webmaster called; he was between recording sessions and wanted to go for a drink.  We stopped at a wine bar on Russian Hill.  Nice ambience, only two other customers, and live music at the far end of the bar.  After a moment he dashed out to move his motorcycle when a car seemed ready to back into it.  Rejoining me, he said he really liked the new poem about the opera "Salome." Web [let's call him] drank two beers, which had no impact on him.  I consumed two glasses of zinfandel and became bubbly.  It should be said that I never drink two glasses unless I'm in the company of good friends.  Why can't women drink like men? he mused.  In the Mission where he grew up working construction, he learned to drink peers under the table.  He just couldn't get over Serious Me becoming bubbly.  We're smaller and our metabolism is complex, I suggested.  As we munched salami, cheese and crackers, a "cigarette girl" walked in -- right out of a classic Hollywood film -- dressed for work in a night club, with a large tray supported by a heavy silk cord around her bare shoulders.  Mints, candy, nuts, electronic roses? she smiled.  What a surprise and where did you come from? I asked, examining the electronic roses.  Oh, along here they pay me to circulate from club to club and I saw you two in the window looking happy so I thought you might want to purchase something, she replied.  Web gave her the fish eye, so I prompted him -- c'mon she's working here and she's nice; there must be something on the tray you would like.  Finally I selected the mints at $3, right after she spoke about how heavy the tray was.  Web was still giving her the fish eye when she strolled out.  Really, guys can be so strange.  How much will they spend on six-packs of beer and closed-circuit sports events -- they'll drop an entire paycheck on that stuff, right?  He insisted on walking me to the door of my building.  It's raining and you're wearing heels and it's night, he said.  It's not raining that hard, my heels are only two inches and I know this area like the back of my hand, I countered, taking his arm.  Women, he said, shaking his head.  Yeah, I know; we rule, except when we work in clubs carrying heavy trays...  

(c) 2010 Jeanne Powell

5 Comment count
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Loved these vignettes ~

Always love to read about San Francisco - always love to write about it. I found these little slices of life nostalgic and exotic. Lovely.

PS I got your message yesterday - your second, you said. Never got the first. Sent a private Red Room message to you. I don't like to post my email addresses but Huntington has them, so if these messages are not getting through, please ask him to send them to you via email.

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SF Vignettes

 Of course, I agonized over publishing them on Redroom. After a brief conversation with Christopher Meeks at the AWP conference in Denver, I recalled my issues about labels -- fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction? Is category of writing more important than respect for the privacy of people who don't know that I'm writing about them?

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I don't know. I do.

I think about this, but I write what I see. It doesn't matter in my case whether I call something fiction or nonfiction. The way I write, they are the same thing. If it ever seemed like it would disturb someone I care about, I would either get permission or fictionalise it enough so that it wasn't discernable. But that wouldn't make it fiction. It would make it nonfiction pretending to be fiction. In fact that is the opening line of my next book (not Felicity and Barbara Pym - that is already finished, but the one after that: "This book is pretending to be fiction." I like your stories and it doesn't matter what label you put on them!

Sorry I did not receive your messages. Don't know what's going on there.

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Thank You

Thanks and blessings for sharing your wit and wisdom, as well as your keen observations of life on the streets of San Francisco. Clearly this is a city you love, and I feel your caring for its people and neighborhoods. I feel privileged to see this great city through your eyes.

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thank you

very much appreciate your comments.